Tag Archives: waterfall

German Local Legend

Nationality: American
Primary language: English
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: Seattle, WA


There’s a mountain range in southern Germany in which, during springtime, there are many waterfalls and fast rivers. There was once a farmer traveling with his cows at the top of the mountain. Suddenly, one of his cows was swept away into the river. He looked for the cow, but couldn’t find it. Later, people further down the mountain suddenly saw the cow shoot out of the waterfall. To this day, whenever you pass by that waterfall, people tell this story, saying, “A cow once shot out of this waterfall.” There’s even a sign about it next to the waterfall!


BW was 10 or 11 when she heard this story. She was a military brat, and when her father was stationed in Germany, the military base she was staying at had a hotel nearby. BW’s family visited and hiked in the mountains during their stay. BW heard this story from a tour guide or a local who knew the area well. She doubts that this was a true story, and thinks it was probably a silly way to encourage people to use caution around waterfalls. She also notes that there were quite a few waterfall caverns in this mountain range, so perhaps this was a way for locals to add lore to a notable geographical landmark.


Legends always have unknown truth value, and often tell us about people’s values and fears. This particular German legend seems “untrue,” but whether or not a cow shooting out of a waterfall is possible isn’t relevant for the area this story belongs to. The inclusion of a farmer and his cows as the main figures of the story are notable, hinting that this area did or does value agriculture and require farming jobs. After all, legends take place in the real past or present, not a fantastical world. More interesting, though, is what’s at the heart of the story: the loss of the farmer’s cow to the waterfall. I believe that this represents the way in which nature is uncontrollable and unpredictable. Weather in the mountains can be harsh, and I imagine that snow, rain, wind, and other conditions would make growing crops and living in a mountain range a difficult endeavor. The farmer’s loss of his cow demonstrates the way in which people trying to live in this mountain range might lose precious resources in unpredictable ways to the climate around them. However, this legend has an amusing end, with the cow returning to fly out of the waterfall. This is a humorous image–cows aren’t supposed to fly out of waterfalls!–and according to BW is used as a fun tidbit. I believe that this is a way for residents of this German mountain range to make light of their fears about nature and loss. The possibility of losing precious resources without warning is scary, but this legend makes it seem less so. Additionally, the potential survival and return of the cow from the waterfall is hopeful, implying that the residents of this mountain range want to stay optimistic even in the midst of hard times.